When organizations bring me in to do presentations on customer service, one of the easiest areas for improvement may be how they answer their phones. For example, a typical phone greeting could be, “Good morning, this is ABC org, Susan speaking. How may I help you?” Sounds good in theory, but in reality there are 4 negatives: 1. It’s too long, so employees rush through with a monotone. 2. Employees confuse times and mistakenly say, good afternoon. 3. Finishing with ‘how can I help you’ rushes customers to get to the point – instead of introducing themselves. 4. The caller misses the employee’s name because it’s skimmed over early in the sentence. A more effective greeting is simply, “Thank you for calling ABC org, this is Susan.” It’s short, friendly, and helps customers remember your name while encouraging them to offer theirs.
Does this ever happen in your workplace? The manager who was bringing me in to train his team explained, “Jeff, I can understand when employees make a mistake. What drives me crazy is when team members cover their backsides and blame one another when foul-ups occur. We need a greater commitment to teamwork.” The problem is mosttypical approaches to teamwork are actually counterproductive.
Check out this video where I share what does work to create a more cohesive and cooperative team.
A common blunder when trying to influence others is talking too much. This is particularly true after asking a question. For example, a sales representative might “close” by asking, “Your thoughts on…?” At this point the rep needs to REMAIN SILENT. The silence maybe awkward, but it’s critical to wait while the other person makes that buying decision. More often than not, by remaining silent you’ll receive an affirmative answer. When it comes to influencing others, silence really is golden.
Chances are there are times at work where you and your team members feel low on energy and motivation. That makes for a long day… one that’s physically and mentally draining. Fortunately, there are five tactics I share in this video that help energize us physically and motivate us emotionally. Tip: be sure to watch right to the end – my last motivation strategy is shockingly simple and yet has the most impact on your productivity, reputation, and sense of self esteem.
Many organizations claim they are focused on delighting customers.
What if you could prove it within the first 30 seconds of your customer’s arrival?
Imagine you and your company are considering a new supplier. You schedule a time to meet a few team members at their establishment. When you arrive on site the first impression you register is a prominent sign in reception with your logo: “Welcome, (your name)! Nice.
Then as you’re given a tour, you note that every employee you encounter is wearing a name tag that includes your logo. Chances are you’re sensing this outfit is indeed customer focused. They differentiate their brand - not by drawing attention to themselves and their superiority - but by focusing on you and your brand. Nominal cost. Substantial impact.
Question: at work when an unpopular policy has been announced, have you or whoever introduced it - rather than explaining or justifying the policy - simply blamed head office?
The message to the local team is, I know this is unwelcome/ unnecessary/ stupid but senior management sitting in their disconnected ivory tower has issued a royal decree, and our job as
serfs is to comply. Even if it makes no sense.
This happens a lot in companies. Branch managers don’t want to take the heat from local employees about an unpopular decision. It’s easier to just blame head office. But consider the damage.
Employees feel like “the company” doesn’t really understand employee challenges out in the field. And if they (senior managers) do understand, they obviously don’t care. Imagine what that does to morale, turnover, and overall teamwork. Corporate silos become more entrenched. A ‘them vs us’ attitude becomes part of the culture. Meanwhile, one of our greatest management challenges is recruiting and retaining staff.
To prevent this fallout from an unpopular decision, consider the comment of a vice president who had brought me in to speak at his annual managers meeting, which included branch managers. “We are all HEAD OFFICE”, he pointedly stated as he gestured to the entire conference room. His message was that anyone in a management/ supervisory role anywhere represents head office. “It’s every manager’s role everywhere to explain why corporate decisions are made.” He continued, “If you don’t understand or agree with a decision, call us first and we’ll take all the time needed to explain it, so you can do the same with your team. But don’t ever just pass a decision off as something insisted upon by head office. Again, we are all head office.”
Speaking of ‘head office’, one of my clients, a senior exec in a multinational manufacturing firm, told me they consciously stopped using that term. They didn’t like that ‘head office’ made it sound more important than the branches. They merely switched the term to ‘home office.’ Simple and smart.
Ever attend a “teambuilding event” at work that backfired? Consider these examples:
- At the annual December company dinner, an employee who overindulges at the bar makes an inappropriate comment/ pass at another employee. That Monday, the subject of the unwanted attention files a complaint with HR.
- At the summer company bar-b-que, several people (extroverts) who are on vacation can’t attend and feel like they’ve missed-out. Others (introverts) are relieved they have an excuse to avoid it.
- At an offsite paintball outing, a somewhat out of shape employee stumbles over an obstacle, which at first causes some co-workers to laugh, but actually requires knee surgery.
In each case, well-intended managers hope the event will enhance team bonding and boost cooperation. Unfortunately, it has the opposite effect.
Company meals and events should be seen as bonuses or perks (that are sometimes expensive and risky). But they aren’t teambuilding events. Walking a high ropes course or completing a fire-walk has virtually no relevance to the problem of the service department blaming the sales department when a customer is upset.
In my 30 years of clients bringing me in to engage teams, I’ve observed that trying to enhance teamwork is like trying to fall asleep. Teamwork, like sleeping, is a byproduct of other steps you take to make it happen. In other words, teamwork is a side effect of everyone focusing on the larger goal - delighting internal and external customers.
That’s why for my client leadership teams, I walk them through staging monthly Customer Service Team meetings - CAST©. In 90 minute meetings, managers use the CAST tool to enhance internal and external customer service culture. Results: teams become more focused on service and more motivated to deliver it. Teamwork is the happy side effect.
Interested in staging your own CAST meetings? Check out the step-by step-process in my book, Becoming a Service Icon in 90 Minutes a Month I’ll also be staging virtual seminars on the topic this fall. Details are at Leading a Customer-Focused Team
Hopefully, at this stage of your career, you’ve discovered that the number one key to advancing your long-term career and your reputation is not friendliness, expertise, or even talent. While all those qualities are admirable, I would argue that your family, customers, and co-workers judge you on more than anything is reliability. In other words, you don’t make excuses, you simply deliver as promised – every time. That’s easy - until things go wrong.
When everything goes well, chances are your customers and co-workers are not delighted. They are merely getting what they expected so they are satisfied. That doesn’t mean they are loyal or that they’d recommend you. Or promote you or give you a raise. Over the longer term when things go wrong (as eventually they will), or seem hard or inconvenient – that’s when people see if you are actually trust-worthy.
Assuming you are reliable – (even when things go wrong), here’s a second key to boosting your reputation - exceeding expectations. The good news is this is often much easier than it sounds. A couple of examples:
- You think you can complete a customer request within the next 3 hours. You ask the customer when they need it. They reply, “Within 3 days”. Your commitment, “You’ll have it within 24 hours.”
- A customer shipment arrives slightly damaged. Since shipping for this product is so expensive or slow, you’re prepared to give the customer up to 40% off for accepting the defect. Instead of offering that percentage, you apologize, state that you want to be fair and ask, “What do you think would be fair?” The customer says a 10% refund would be acceptable. You reply that in appreciation for their business and by way of apology you’ll double that amount and give them 20% off.
In both scenarios you are exceeding customer expectations, so they are likely delighted, feeling more loyal than before the foul-up, and more inclined to recommend you. And you are giving yourself more time and giving away less than what you were prepared to offer. The key is beginning by asking the customer what their expectations are, and then exceeding them.
How about you and your team members? Is there room for improvement in the way you’re establishing customer expectations and delivering on those promises?
If you sense customers are becoming more impatient and demanding, you’re not alone. My clients tell me about how price hikes and supply chain issues are putting more pressure on their customers. The lack of control over timelines and costs is taking a toll on everyone’s patience. So, today’s tip is somewhat unconventional.
We may not have control over customers being stressed, but we do have control over our reactions. This time I’m not talking about phrases that help defuse tense situations (tips I share in my seminars). In this case, I’m talking about feeling less stressed by using one strategy – exercise before going to work.
You’ve likely had days where you have so many demands pulling at you from all sides, you may feel – as one manager client of mine stated – “defeated by your day”. You may even need to stay after hours to finish what you started in the morning. Here’s the rub… chances are in that scenario you not only feel stressed and exhausted, you also feel some guilt over missing a workout.
By exercising before arriving for work – or even sneaking in a mini workout/ walk/ stretch at lunchtime - you help recover from stress. Your entire system is reoxygenated and re-energized. Best of all you feel a sense of self-worth rather than guilt, knowing you’re still taking care of your health. That sense of calm comes through in your communications with others and helps everyone around you gain some perspective. Plus, at the end of the day, you bring a nicer, healthier person home to your family/ roommates/ goldfish.
Being kind to customers starts with being kind to yourself.
Register today for our 30 – second Trusted Advisor tips and receive as a bonus 15 Phrases that Pay for dealing with stressed and rushed customers.
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